Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Statistics on gender needed

Statistics on gender needed
Daily Graphic, Tuesday, February, 23, 2010; Page 11
Rebecca Quaicoe-Duho

Gender statistics are the body of statistics compiled, analysed and presented by sex, reflecting gender issues in society. This statistics needs to be produced in close co-operation with users to respond to the needs of policy makers, planner, researcher, the media and the public.

According to statisticians, in order for users’ needs to be fully considered, it is necessary to examine gender concerns and goals in society and identify the necessary statistics and indicators to address them with adequate policies and plans to assess and monitor related issues.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) defines gender statistics as a field of statistics that cuts across the traditional fields to identify, produce and disseminate statistics that reflect the realities of the lives of women and men and policy issues relating to gender. Gender statistics, it says, allow for a systematic study of gender differentials and gender issues.

Gender issues are determined by gender-based and/or sex-based differences between women and men and it encompasses all aspects and concerns with how women and men interrelate, their differences in access to and use of resources, their activities and how they react to changes, interventions and policies.

According to gender advocates, gender issues exist in all spheres of society and are therefore relevant to the production of statistics in all fields and intervene at every step of the production process. Gender statistics, according to advocates, are not necessarily and not only statistics disaggregated by sex.

Producing statistics that adequately reflect gender issues implies that all statistics are produces taking into consideration the different socio-economic realities women and men face in society. This means that data, both on the individual as well as those not directly related to individuals, are collected, compiled, and analysed taking into consideration that gender-based factors influence women and men differently – this, according to advocates, can be called gender mainstreaming of statistics.

The impact of data collected on women and men needs to be considered in every step of statistical production and all statistical fields. Concepts and methods used in data collection need to be adequately formulated to ensure they reflect existing gender concerns and differentials. Additionally, social and cultural factors, according to gender advocates, must be taken into consideration as they can result in gender-based biases in data collection, analysis and presentation.

They say that although the presentation of information on women and men follows the general rules for statistical presentation, one must keep in mind that the presentation aims at facilitating comparisons between women and men, as well as increasing the awareness of gender differentials.

Advocates further contend that the main point is not the mere existence of such differences, but the fact that these differences should not have a negative impact the living conditions of both women and men, should not discriminate against them and should contribute to an equal sharing of power in economy, society and policy-making processes.

Some policy areas where gender statistics have been identifies to influence include population, families and households, work and the economy, education and communication, public life and decision-making, health, crime and violence.

It is inline with ensuring that gender statistics are incorporated in data collection in that country that they Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) with support from the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has set up a gender statistic working group made up of experts from government and non-governmental agencies to identify gender gaps in the production of statistics in the country.

The group, which was launched in Accra, held its first meeting and made of researchers, gender advocates, UN agencies, civil organization and academia, will also outline how gender statistics should be produced and used and how it use should be promoted by government, planning bodies, the media, research institutions and other stakeholders.

The Government Statistician, Dr Grace Bediako, in an address said the Beijing Platform for Action adopted for nations 15 years ago emphasized the need to disaggregate data by sex across board so as to produce data by sex.

She said there was a need to re-look at the statistical system in the country, since a change in the way of data collection would be met with some resistance as new forms would have to be designed for administrative purposes.

She said the time had come for the country to move the issues of gender statistics forward by striving to ensure that a conscious effort was made to bridge the knowledge gap in gender mainstreaming.

The UNIFEM Country Representative, Ms Afua Ansre, in a remark said Ghana had acceded to all international requirements to make gender equality a reality in the country.

She said a sex disaggregated data was needed in all areas of policy making in the country, saying, that without such data, the country could not meet its international obligations with regards to gender mainstreaming.

She also called on the government to make use of such data when they are generated, saying that although the GSS had some genders disaggregated data it was underutilised.

A director at the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWAC), Ms Patience Opoku, in a remark said developing a sex disaggregated data would help the ministry to achieve its mandate of ensuring that issues of women were given the needed priority.

She said the ministry was preparing to actively showcase its achievements at the forthcoming women to be held in New York next month.

The Regional Coordinator, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, Ms Diana Tempelman, who was the guest speaker at the launch of the group, said the lack of gender statistics was a major constraint in developing gender responsive policies and programmes.

She said statistics and indicators on gender relations were needed for informed policy decision and monitoring of programmes, saying that the group would help improve the capacity of both producers and users of gender statistic to produce and use gender-sensitive indicators and sex disaggregated data to inform policy formulation, monitoring and reporting.

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